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Benita S. Katzenellenbogen, PhD

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, Illinois

Titles and Affiliations

Swanlund Professor
Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Cell and Developmental Biology

Research area

Identifying targets for the development of drugs that suppress the growth of aggressive breast cancers and improve breast cancer outcomes.


Estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) subtypes can develop resistance to treatments and progress and metastasize. The protein FOXM1, which is expressed at high levels in many breast tumors, plays a role in breast cancer progression, resistance to endocrine and other cancer therapies, and metastasis. Dr. Katzenellenbogen aims to develop FOXM1 inhibitors to impede tumor growth and metastasis and expand treatment strategies for aggressive breast cancers.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Katzenellenbogen has developed and optimized FOXM1 inhibitors that are very effective in suppressing the growth and metastasis of ER-positive and TNBC with high levels of FOXM1 activity. The inhibitors synergize with CDK4/6 inhibitors, which are commonly used to treat advanced ER-positive breast cancer. The inhibitors also block the tumor-promoting activity of FOXM1 in other aggressive cancers, such as ovarian, melanoma, and multiple myeloma in laboratory experiments.

What’s next

Dr. Katzenellenbogen is now testing combination drug treatments of FOXM1 inhibitors with current and prospective new cancer treatments that can act synergistically to inhibit tumor growth, block cancer recurrence, and reverse drug resistance. The ability of FOXM1 inhibitors to block the progression of both ER-positive breast cancer and TNBC has significant potential, both alone and in combination with other cancer drugs, to reduce the amount of each drug needed in treatment, and to provide long-lasting prevention of cancer recurrence and metastasis.


Benita Katzenellenbogen is Swanlund Professor of Physiology, Cell and Developmental Biology, and director of a breast cancer research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an internationally known endocrinologist and cancer researcher and has been a key scientist in understanding the biology of estrogen receptors and in elucidating mechanisms by which antiestrogens and SERMs, such as Tamoxifen and Raloxifene, are effective in controlling breast cancer. The work of her research group has most recently involved the development of selective hormonal agents for breast cancer treatment and prevention.

Since joining the University of Illinois, she has published over 350 research articles, contributed 30 chapters in books, and co-edited a text on hormone-dependent cancers. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors from governmental and private institutions including the MERIT Award (1991-1999) from the National Cancer Institute,  Jill Rose Award from The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Ernst Oppenheimer Award, Roy O. Greep Lecture Award, and Koch Lifetime Achievement Award of The Endocrine Society, Distinguished Scientist Award from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and National Scholar Award from the American Association of University Women.

She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and previously served as President of The Endocrine Society. She has been active on government scientific review panels of the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. The research unit she directs has trained approximately 100 graduate students and postdoctoral and visiting scientists.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Challenge of the Americas Award